Friday, October 11, 2013



Today is our last day in Iganga. I can’t believe this trip is about to end. It is so hard to believe we have been here four weeks. I really could stay here another few weeks and probably still not complete all that I want to do. We did so much and had a chance to meet so many great people and learn SO much about this country. I really do feel for the first time like I am coming home with so much insight about so many different aspects of Uganda. The learning curve this time has been amazing and I feel like I am returning with some great ideas about how to serve even better than we have in the past. I have learned that it is about what is best for the people here; not about what is best for the people coming to serve! I may be slow but I have finally figured it out and what a difference it is making in decisions we’ve made and how we have implemented the things we are doing. I came with one set of beliefs and am coming home with another. And I truly believe that I am coming home a much better person for all that I have seen and learned.

I started the day at Musana and spent several hours talking to Andrea, Haril and her mother, Pat about a myriad of issues I had questions about. They were so willing to share their views and answer my questions. I felt like I was sitting among long time friends and talking about something we are all passionate about. I really value what they had to say as they are living here full time and have personally faced many of the issues I was asking about. I appreciated their insight as Mzungus working in Uganda and I valued Haril’s take on Ugandan culture. He was able to let me know if my thoughts were correct or if I was looking at them with an American slant. All in all it was a great meeting and I was really sorry to have to say goodbye to them. Next time I go to Colorado to see my friend, Colleen, we are going to have to take a side trip and visit Pat. If she and I lived closer together I think we could get into a lot of trouble together!!!

I left there and went to Bulubande where the rest of the team was painting Bible verses on the newly painted walls of the girl’s dorms. They had done a wonderful job. The paint odor was awfully strong – after a few whiffs I thought I was going to be a little tipsy for the rest of the day. Liz then painted, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” in big letters on the archway in the entryway to the dorm room. I cannot tell you how awesome it looks. Everyone did a great job and I can’t believe that Liz did it free hand.
As for me, I stood on a wobbly chair to do my piece. Fortunately Jaimie was kind enough to hold the chair so I wouldn’t fall to the ground. It was so nice to hear the girls come in and start reading what was written. The boys dorms had not been painted yet or we would have taken our talents into their rooms as well. I have to say with the newly painted walls (the bottom half is dark brown, the top white) and green verses the rooms look really nice. What a difference a coat of paint makes. The rooms are so much brighter and cheerier. And of course there is nothing better after a hard days work than lunch. So once again we were treated to rice, beans, and the best pineapple ever. All was going well until Liz found a bug in her rice. After that it was not quite as appetizing but we did manage to eat quite a bit. It was when she flicked it onto the floor and it almost fell into my coke that I lost a few more years of life!

I then went outside and found a few young kids that for some reason had not yet returned to class. I asked Waisuwa to help me organize them into a small circle with their feet pointed up and got some of the cutest pictures. They were all excited to participate and I was only too happy to take several.
The little girl I mentioned yesterday found me again today and ran up and grabbed my hand. Yesterday I taught her to “gig em”. Well today I taught her to puff her cheeks out and blow out air. So she and I did this for a good long while. Then she held up her hands and wanted to be held. She must have seen the sucker written across my forehead because I was only too happy to comply. She and I walked hand in hand all day. She is just so stinking cute. When it came time to leave I took her back to her mother and she wanted no part of that. If I could I would sneak her home in my suitcase. She just touched my heart and once again I fell in love.

We then came back to the Mum and we proceeded to try to get everything into our suitcases. This is always such a challenge. I am excited to be coming home and seeing my husband, and being able to see and talk to my family and friends but I am going to miss this country tremendously. I will leave a part of my heart here. We have done some good things and today I really saw and felt God pulling all the pieces together for us. We were able to wrap up a lot of things that until today were really at loose ends. God was really gracious in showing us to depend on him and to trust him in all things. Last night I went to bed in a state of panic as to how things were going to come together. I had a list a mile long. And today one by one they all fell into place. I have such a peace about how we are leaving everything. Our God is so good.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Final 4

Adios, and A New Wonderful Friend We bid our team goodbye yesterday and came into the hotel and fell into the chairs in the “reception” area. We were really sad to see them go but exhausted to the point of collapse. We sat there for a while speechless (which for this group is almost miraculous) not because we had nothing to say but because it took too much energy to speak. Then we slowly got up and meandered to our rooms where we proceeded to veg out for a while. The team now consists of four – Judy Benson, Jaimie Piatnik, Liz Mendoza and me. Vicki Smith (a wonderful woman on the Tree of Life board with me) had connected me with a young lady by the name of Desire. She is the sister of a young man that Vicki sponsors. She has recently graduated university with a degree in social work. Anyway, we had asked her before we came if she would be able to join us for dinner while we were in Kampala. So yesterday she came out to the hotel and joined us for a meal. She came in and what a beautiful woman she was. Oh, my goodness, she was stunning. I’m trying to figure out what she was thinking as she walked into this hotel, not knowing us from Adam, and meeting probably the four weirdest Mzungus ever. Right away I think we all felt a connection and like we had known each other forever. She started to tell us what she does when we asked if she could back up and tell us her story. And so she began… She is the oldest in her family. Her mother married a Muslim man and converted to Christianity when she was a very young girl. As a result of this, her father left her mom and married another woman leaving her mom with she and her brother and two other children. She said they struggled for years to survive. And yes, I mean to survive. To feed themselves so as to not starve. But her mother continued to rely on her faith and instilled this faith in her children. She fought for them to go to school and did whatever it took to make sure they got an education. They moved constantly because they did not have money for rent but still her mother kept them together. Now she has a university degree. She has adopted a baby girl she has named Gift and is passing that legacy on to another generation. She was amazing. She has the strongest faith and actually has been tested and put it into action. Just listening to her passion for people and seeing the way she lives and loves others was amazing to see. Around 10 pm we finally asked her to spend the night (we did not want her to take a boda boda (motorcycle) home in the dark and we all went to bed refreshed but tired. Sitting in that small group and sharing like family was really a wonderful experience. This morning Haji dropped us at the US Embassy and she went off to work. The US Embassy was an interesting experience. For me, I was a little surprised by how easy it was to get in. I expected much stricter levels of security. Maybe it’s because we all look so innocent (Steve, you can stop laughing now!) but we passed security, they checked our backpacks, wanded us, looked at our passports and sent us to the next station. They had a list of things we couldn’t take in, including computers and phones, so we put our stuff into a locker and were passed through the gate. When we walked into the compound, it was like walking into Utopia. It was beautiful. Once there we walked through a metal detector and were asked to take a seat. Sadly, the woman we were to meet was in South Africa attending an emergency meeting and was not there to see us. This would have been good information to have ahead of time, but it was good to see the procedure to get in so we didn’t feel anything was lost. We dropped Judy and Liz at the bank to exchange money while Haji looked for a parking space. We ended up parking in front of the book store we had stopped at two weeks ago and so Jaimie and I walked in. We were hoping to see if they had collected the books for our secondary school but alas they had nothing. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Judy and Liz were done exchanging money and were standing on the street corner waiting for us. Two Mzungus, and money do not equal a good situation. However, they did have ample opportunities to pick up a man! Sadly, there were none they wanted. As they were starting to quake in their boots I was strolling through the bookstore without a care in the world. Last week as we were distributing Bibles I was surprised to learn that many of the Ugandans prefer the Bible in English as opposed to Lugandan. I really thought that buying them in Lugandan was the best way to go. So later in the day I asked Haji when he reads the Koran (he is Muslim) does he prefer to read it in English or Lugandan. Again, his response surprised me. He said the Koran was not translated into Lugandan and he couldn’t find one in English. So he hadn’t read the Koran in a while. I asked if he would like one and he said yes. So I thought for about two seconds and told him if I could find one I would buy one for him. I really believe I was supposed to do this. Many of you may disagree but I think as Christians we are called to love our brothers. I hope that by giving to him and loving him he may come to know Christ. When we gave the Koran to him today he was very, very thankful. Then we went and visited the market. Liz and Jaimie were adamant that we only spend ten minutes. Well, that lasted about ten minutes. I love that market. I love walking around it and seeing all the wares that people have to sell. Most of them I have already bought on previous trips but I still love seeing what they make. Jaimie bought a mandolin (?) and serenaded us all the way home to Iganga. The words made no sense but she enjoyed strumming and singing. We then stopped in Jinja and ate again at the Source of the Nile and wandered those shops. Finally, we headed back to Iganga in rain like I have never seen before. It poured. It seemed the harder it rained the faster we drove. I had front seat honors because it is the only seat with a window that rolls down and the view is great… especially when you see the truck coming directly at you!! While in Jinja eating there was a woman at the next table… a Mzungu. So naturally I asked where she was from and she told us she was from Witchita Falls, Tx. Small world! Turns out she is a nurse working in Jinja. So we started talking to her about Jaimie’s little boy that she sponsors and his ear problems and asked her advice on where she might take him. She immediately recommended a doctor in Jinja not far from the cafĂ© and so off Judy and Jaimie went to talk to him. So after walking several blocks they walked in and met Dr. Charles, a pediatrician from Britain. He answered their questions and we have scheduled a time for him to see Paul on Thursday afternoon. We then went back and asked Phil if he would let us take Paul to Jinja to see the doctor and he said yes. It is awesome how this has all come together. Dr. Charles said that if Paul needs tubes or other surgery he has a doctor he recommends in Kampala and Phil has already said we can take him!!! Finally we arrived at the Mum and they welcomed us with open arms. James and Steven were here so we sat with them and talked for a while and then went to our separate rooms. Little Lizzie did laundry Ugandan style in a bucket in our bathroom. Our bathroom now has laundry hanging everywhere. Tomorrow we are resting and then going to Musana to meet with Haril and Andrea for dinner. Very excited to sit with them and get to know them better. Every time I come I seem to meet new people and reconnect with others. I continue to say this country is wonderful. The people are kind and gentle. There is so much to love and as I get to know the people better and am sharing truly from the heart I know I am making life long friendships. I have been deeply blessed. One last detail… there are several round a bouts in this country. Every time we come to one we start yelling, “Haji, Haji, Haji” and every once in a while he rewards us by driving in circles around them. With that we all raise our arms like we are on a roller coaster. He probably thinks we are crazy… I think he is right.